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Kentucky Sheriff’s Department Adds Phone Forensics Tech

The Daviess County Sheriff’s Department has added new technology to help investigate crimes involving phones, computers and surveillance cameras, following a $51,300 grant from the state Office of Homeland Security.

(Ryan Whisenhunt)
(TNS) — The Daviess County Sheriffs’ Department has added new technology to help investigate crimes involving cellphones, computers and surveillance cameras.

Last year, the sheriff’s department received a $51,300 grant from the state Department of Homeland Security to purchase a new computer and several new software programs to conduct phone and computer examinations for evidence. Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the sheriff’s office, said all of the software has been ordered.

Special Deputy Cheryl Purdy, a computer analyst and head of the cybersecurity workforce certificate at Owensboro Community & Technical College, conducts phone and computer forensic investigations for the sheriff’s office. Purdy said Monday that the phone and computer searches can’t be done without precise warrants that outline exactly what is being sought by investigators. Warrants are reviewed and approved by a judge.

The new software will allow Purdy to search for evidence contained in a smartphone’s cloud-based backup system. The software can search for evidence in a person’s iCloud, Google Drive or on social media, Purdy said.

Information deleted from a phone could still exist on a backup system, such as iCloud, Purdy said, and “the same is true for Google Drive for android devices.

“Sometimes, if you feel there are things on a phone you’re not seeing, it’s possible they are on a backup file.”

Purdy, who did forensic work on a phone that resulted in a man pleading guilty in exchange for 30 years in federal prison on child pornography charges last year, said other software purchased through the grant will help provide more accurate records of a phone’s location when it was used to to send texts messages and make calls.

Currently, cellphone locations are only roughly determined by the cell power that “pinged” the call. Also, new software purchased through the grant will allow detectives to show surveillance footage from camera systems that use proprietary technology on windows-based computers.

Being able to take video footage from proprietary systems means investigators will be able to easily show those videos in court.

Currently “short of taking the whole (proprietary) system to court, we haven’t been able to view those,” Purdy said.

© 2021 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.